World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

God Defend New Zealand

Article Id: WHEBN0018933208
Reproduction Date:

Title: God Defend New Zealand  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: National anthems of New Zealand, Aotearoa, John Joseph Woods, National symbols of New Zealand, 2008 Rugby League World Cup Final
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

God Defend New Zealand

God Defend New Zealand
Woods' original manuscript setting Bracken's poem to music

National anthem of  New Zealand
Lyrics Thomas Bracken, 1870s
Music John Joseph Woods, 1876
Adopted 1940 (as national hymn)
1977 (as national anthem)
Music sample

"God Defend New Zealand" is one of two national anthems of New Zealand, the other being "God Save the Queen". Legally they have equal status, but "God Defend New Zealand" is more commonly used, and is popularly referred to as "the national anthem". Originally written as a poem, it was set to music as part of a competition in 1876. Over the years its popularity increased, eventually being named the second national anthem in 1977. The anthem has English and Māori lyrics, with slightly different meanings. When performed in public, the usual practice is to sing both the Māori and English first verses.


New Zealand Historic Places Trust blue plaque at the site of the first performance in Dunedin

"God Defend New Zealand" was written as a poem in the 1870s by Irish-born, Victoria-raised immigrant Thomas Bracken of Dunedin.[1] A competition to compose music for the poem was held in 1876 by The Saturday Advertiser and judged by three prominent Melbourne musicians, with a prize of ten guineas (equivalent in today's money to NZ$ 21). The winner of the competition was the Tasmanian-born John Joseph Woods of Lawrence, New Zealand who composed the melody in a single sitting the evening after finding out about the competition.[2] The song was first performed at the Queen's Theatre, Princes Street, Dunedin, on Christmas Day, 1876.

The song became increasingly popular during the 19th century and early 20th century, and in 1940 the New Zealand government bought the copyright and made it New Zealand's national hymn in time for that year's centennial celebrations. It was used at the British Empire Games from 1950 onward, and first used at the Olympics during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. Following the performance at the Munich games, a campaign began to have the song adopted as the national anthem.[3]

In May 1973 a remit to change the New Zealand Flag, declare a New Zealand republic and change the national anthem from God Save the Queen was voted down by the Labour Party at their national conference.[4]

In 1976 a petition was presented to Parliament asking God Defend New Zealand to be made the national anthem, and, with the permission of Queen Elizabeth II, it became the country's second national anthem on 21 November 1977, on equal standing with "God Save the Queen". Up until then "God Save the Queen" was New Zealand's national anthem.[3]

An alternative official arrangement for massed singing by Maxwell Fernie was announced by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Allan Highet on 1 June 1978.

It is interesting to observe that Woods' autograph manuscript (illustrated, Auckland Library) has an error in bar 3 of the tune itself. The second note is clearly written as a C but it is always sung as D-flat as indeed the accompaniment is a D-flat triad.


The Ministry for Culture and Heritage has responsibility for the national anthems. The ministry's guidelines for choosing which anthem should be used on any occasion advise that "God Save The Queen" would be appropriate at any occasion where The Queen, a member of the Royal Family, or the Governor-General, when within New Zealand, is officially present or when loyalty to the crown is to be stressed; while "God Defend New Zealand" would be appropriate whenever the national identity of New Zealand is to be stressed even in association with a toast to Elizabeth II as Queen of New Zealand.[5]


"God Defend New Zealand" has five verses, each in back-translated into English by former Māori Language Commissioner, Professor Timoti Karetu.[2]

Copyright on the English lyrics for "God Defend New Zealand" expired from the end of the year, which was 50 years after the death of the author (Bracken), i.e., from 1 January 1949. The copyright has been purchased by the government. Kāretu's back-translation is under New Zealand Crown copyright until 2079.[6]

Until the 1990s, only the first verse of the English version was commonly sung. A public debate emerged after only the first Māori verse was sung at the 1999 Rugby World Cup match against England, and it then became common to sing both the Māori and English first verses one after the other.[7]

First verses

New Zealand National Anthem

Māori verse: "Aotearoa"

E Ihowā Atua,
O ngā iwi mātou rā
Āta whakarangona;
Me aroha noa
Kia hua ko te pai;
Kia tau tō atawhai;
Manaakitia mai

English translation (Karetu)

O Lord, God,
of all people
Listen to us,
Cherish us
May good flourish,
May your blessings flow.

English verse: "God Defend New Zealand"

God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.
Guard Pacific's triple star
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand.

Full English version

Meaning of "Pacific's triple star"

There is some discussion, with no official explanation, of the meaning of "Pacific's triple star". Unofficial explanations range from New Zealand's three biggest islands (North, South, and Stewart Island/Rakiura),[2] to the three stars on the shield of the New Zealand Anglican Church, and to the three stars on the flag of Te Kooti (a Māori political and religious leader of the 19th century).[8] Popular NZ culture jokes that it refers to Speights (Pride of the South), a Dunedin brewed beer, which has a triple star as its logo.

Full Māori version

Note on "whakarangona"

The original 1878 Māori version uses "whakarangona" (to be heard), the passive form of the verb "whakarongo" (to hear). An alternate passive form of the verb, "whakarongona", first appeared as one of several errors in the Māori version when "God Defend New Zealand" was published as the national hymn in 1940. The latter form of the verb has appeared in many versions of the anthem since this time, although the Ministry of Culture and Heritage continues to use "whakarangona".[9]


  1. ^ Broughton, W.S (22 June 2007). "Bracken, Thomas 1843 – 1898". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 9 November 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c Ministry for Culture and Heritage (12 April 2011). "History of God Defend New Zealand". Archived from the original on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 4 May 2011. 
  3. ^ a b  
  4. ^ John Moody. "Past Attempts to Change New Zealand’s Flag".  
  5. ^ Ministry for Culture and Heritage (12 April 2011). "National anthems: Protocols". Retrieved 4 May 2011. 
  6. ^ Copyright information
  7. ^ "New Zealand's national anthems". Ministry of Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 12 September 2012. 
  8. ^ """E Ihowa atua: "Triple Star. 
  9. ^ Ministry for Culture and Heritage (12 April 2011). "God Defend New Zealand/Aotearoa". Retrieved 4 May 2011. 

External links

  • by Tui Kowhai c1939God Defend New ZealandThe story of
  • National Anthem: Official website by New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage
  • – Audio of the national anthem of New Zealand, with information and lyricsGod Defend New Zealand
  • Page about the national anthem includes a recording by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
  • Video of the arrangement of "God Defend New Zealand" formerly played on New Zealand television at the beginning and close of each day's programming
  • National Anthem performed in sign language, 3 News, 5 May 2011

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.